Shallot Marmalade


Today in Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen, shallot jamwe’re cooking up an experiment…shallot marmalade. I’ve been working on different takes on marmalade for about three years now, starting when Ellen showed me a Pinterest post about Meyer Lemon marmalade; now I’m growing my own Meyer lemons. I’ve made marmalade from these lemons, Key limes, Valencia and navel oranges, blood oranges, clementines, red grapefruits, both red and Vidalia onions—have I missed anything?

I found this recipe in search of a better recipe for orange marmalade. My search took me to the web site of the Paris- and New York-based chef David Leibovitz. He has a whole section of his blog (www.davidliebovitz.com) dedicated to jams and jellies, and a lot of the recipes are just rockin’. If you’re in the hunt for good alternative takes on homemade condiments I recommend this site highly.

So…shallot marmalade: what is it good for? Try it as a condiment on burgers, grilled chicken or salmon, spread a dollop over a wedge of Brie or Camembert (wrap the whole cheese in foil and bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes, unwrap and add the marmalade), or simply spooned onto a toasted baguette slice. The fact is, shallots have a wonderful flavor, and with quality ingredients, the result ought to be spectacular. We’ll see.

So what’s the roadmap for this new and interesting new product? Here it is, altered slightly (as I am wont to do) from David Liebovitz’s original recipe. The fragrance is amazing. The flavor is, too.

Almost David Liebovitz’s Shallot Marmalade

Ingredients:

1 lb. shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoon unflavored vegetable oil

big pinch of coarse salt

a few turns of freshly-cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Belgian White beer

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons apple cider or balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup raisins, dried currants, or cranberries

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the oil and saute the shallots over moderate heat with a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and wilted, which should take about 10 minutes.

2. Add the beer, sugar, honey, vinegar, and dried cranberries (or raisins or currants), and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to caramelize. While cooking, continue stirring them just enough to keep them from burning. If the mixture seems to be very dry, add a small splash of water toward the end of cooking, to encourage a little juiciness.

3. The jam is done when the shallots are nicely-caramelized to a deep, dark brown. Do not overcook; there should still be a bit of juices in the pot when it’s ready. Transfer to a jar.

Storaage: You can keep the marmalade in the refrigerator for about two months.

Caramelized Sweet Onion Jam with Balsamic Vinegar

I’m bored to tears.  onionThere’s only so much house cleaning and yard work  person can do each day…okay, I can do more, but I’m trying to pace myself.

So what do do with all the time I have now that the schools are closed and I’m not working?

Why, cook. Naturally.

Today’s effort is a simple one, short and sweet (literally). I’ve been hankering to cook up a batch of orange marmalade, but it turns out I have a bunch of it on the shelf (along with myriad beans, tomatoes, and sauce), and the pantry is short on chutneys and savory jams. And so, caramelized sweet onion jam with a nice shot of really fine Balsamic vinegar from Seasons Lancaster and some herbs that are growing in pots on the kitchen counter, waiting patiently for the weather to change so they can get back outside.

So I made a small batch of this wonderful condiment–it goes marvelously on grilled chicken or fish, and it’s a winner on crusty bread like the stuff Ellen has been baking the last few weeks.

So let’s have a quick course on sweet onion jam–this is a really good one. Two pounds of onions made about three pints. Doubling the recipe would make a terrific batch, and fill that hole on the pantry shelf.  A while back I made a batch of red onion marmalade, and it was terrific. But this stuff, as easy as it is, makes an absolute killer condiment for all your dinner choices.  Try this one if you’ve got a couple of hours.

I’ll bet you do!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds yellow onions sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup granulated organic cane sugar
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons each finely minced  thyme and rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Put olive oil and onions in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat stirring only occasionally; cook until golden, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook until thickened and somewhat syrup-y. Add salt, pepper, and herbs.

3. Ladle into sterilized half pint jars, leaving about ½” headspace. Wipe rims clean and place prepared lids and rings on finger tight.

4. If you cannot test for pH, it is safest to freeze the jam at this point. Be sure to leave sufficient headspace for expansion.

5. Process in a water bath canner at a rolling boil for 15 minutes. After processing, carefully remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in pantry for up to a year; refrigerate after opening.

 

Improvised Veggie Lasagna

I would love to say, “…back by popular demand…” But the fact is, I’ve never done this one before.

Oh, sure, lasagna is everyone’s favorite. It surely is one of mine. On the other hand, making a truly great lasagna is a whole lot of work. But, you say, “It’s worth it in the end,” don’t you? I think it is.

On the other hand, I still can’t bring myself to put all that effort into a really great dinner dish and settle for sauce from a jar. That offends me. You certainly can if you wish, but not me. If I’m going there, I will, every time, opt to make my own sauce.

It’s not that hard, really. Some herbs, lots of garlic, good tomatoes, some wine (both for the sauce and for the chef), and away we go.

This time I found myself 3000 miles from home—visiting family in LA—and was asked to make dinner for family I hadn’t seen in a few years. A chance to show off the skills. But it was in an unfamiliar kitchen, with many unfamiliar ingredients in the cupboards, so the game was on.

The challenges were interesting. One guest was vegetarian, one was Kosher, one I had never met before but who knew from the grapevine that I do have some skills. So the pressure was on.

What to make? What would satisfy all the disparate tastes. Can’t ever go wrong with lasagna. In deference to my vegetarian daughter-in-law—the one who has made an honest man of my fabulous son—veggie lasagna was on the board.

I took full advantage of the year-long bounty that is the SoCal food market. Off to Ralph’s. And then I just sort of winged it. What looked good. What didn’t.

And so, I made up a recipe, one that sounded good on paper, and gave me the opportunity to do something I hadn’t done in a while—make a good marinara. I DO make a good marinara, and it’s so easy it almost isn’t fair.

Follow along, and try this, it’s a show stopper. Oh yeah, and don’t bother boiling the noodles first. Just use them right out of the box. And you don’t need those “no-boil” noodles. They’re a scam. Regular old lasagna noodles are just fine.

The recipe looks long and involved. It’s not, if you do all the prep work at once. The only “must have” is really good tomatoes. For this recipe I used canned San Marzano tomatoes, because my home-grown, personally canned San Marzanos were 3000 miles from LA. Alas, I will be making this again soon for my family, it’s that good. Here’s the blueprint:

Improvised Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

For the sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 6 cloves garlic, sliced very thin

• 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped and divided

• 1 bunch basil, chopped

• 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

• 4 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 3 28-oz cans San Marzano tomatoes

• 1 cup Chianti, divided

• 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar

• 3 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the lasagna

• 9-12 sheets lasagna noodles, uncooked

• 1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

• 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped

• 1 large zucchini, half-moon sliced

• 8 ounces white or Cremini mushrooms, sliced

• 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced

• 1 large container whole-milk ricotta

• 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided

• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

• chopped parsley (see above)—two Tablespoons for the cheese and more for garnish

Preparation:

1. Heat a large pot over low-medium heat about three minutes; Add olive oil (reserving 1 Tablespoon) and garlic slices. Cook until the slices just begin to brown.

2. Add the basil and parsley, reserving 2 tablespoons, cook until completely wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 onion and cook, stirring constantly until transparent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fully browned. Add 1/2 cup wine, deglaze the pan, and continue cooking until the wine is almost fully evaporated.

4. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, the remaining wine, and salt and pepper, turn up the heat and stir well, bring to a soft boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking…

5. Heat a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, and then the remaining olive oil. Add and sauté—one at a time, in this order—the carrots, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms, and cook until just soft. Remove from heat.

6. Slice the eggplant the long way into 1/4-inch slices, brush both sides with olive oil, and broil under low heat, until just beginning to brown; turn over and broil the second side. Remove from the heat and set aside with the sautéed vegetables.

7. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses (reserving 2 Tablespoons Parmesan), minced garlic, and reserved chopped parsley, and mix well.

Assemble the lasagna

8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

9. Spoon 2 cups sauce into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

10. Arrange one layer noodles on the sauce. Spoon half the sautéed vegetables over the noodles, add half the mixed cheeses, then layer half the eggplant over the cheese.

11. Spoon and spread 1 cup sauce over the eggplant, then repeat the noodle, veggie, cheese, and eggplant layers.

12. Add one more layer of noodles over the eggplant, then 2 more cups sauce, and spread completely over the noodles.

13. Top with mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese begins to brown, about 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven when it browns to your liking (I like mine very brown and a bit crispy on top). Remove from the oven, cover loosely with the foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Servings: a lot! This is a big-ass lasagna, and rich.

14. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top and serve.

Meyer-Lemon and Rosemary Glazed Pound Cake

Ina Garten had a good idea. I made it better (IMHO). She called it “Lemon-Yogurt Cake.”

Okay, fine. But this cake is sooo much more. Silky, moist, sweet, tart, great crumb, high and mighty…

I’m not a baker, but this is gooooood!

And the lemons were grown right in my living room!

Off the success of my ML marmalade, I decided to grow my own. I got a mail-order tree two years ago, and now it’s giving me lemons. This cake was made with my first two lemons. The tree now has three more, and lots of flowers I just pollinated this morning. Success!

I had to make something special with these first lemons, and believe me, this cake is special. You simply must try it. But don’t wait two years to grow your lemons. Store bought are fine, but hurry. Meyer Lemon season is almost over. Regular lemons will work too, but the cake won’t be as good.

But with my own home-grown Meyer lemons, it’s a total home run.

Here’s the plan…

Meyer Lemon-Rosemary-Yogurt-Olive Oil Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-fat yogurt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
3 room-temperature eggs
1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest
   (2 lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used Meyer-       
     lemon-infused olive oil)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice,           divided
3/4 cup 10X confectioner’s sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease an 8- by 4- by 4-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, rosemary, and vanilla.
  5. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the olive oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 75-90 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set the lemon syrup aside.
  8. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak into the cake for a half hour.
  9. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and drizzle over the cake.
  10. Allow to cool completely before serving.

NOTE: You can find Ina Garten’s original recipe here: https://pin.it/48%2Fv6Rq

White Bean Chili Reimagined for the 21st Century

So Ellen changed my mind on tomato-based chili. I was long an advocate of Tex-Mex style brisket-based chili, but now I’m on her veggie-style chili.

But now, white-bean turkey chili is my go-to. Because I’m no longer eating red meat–I’m actually on my way to vegetarian–I’m now leaning in the direction of white chili.

But at (soon-to-be) 73, I need to lean everything down even more. Thus, this recipe, which I simply love.

It starts off with a recipe from the fine folks at Skinny Taste, but because I just can’t leave a recipe alone I’ve given it my own spin and a few personal touches that I think make it even better, without compromising its Skinny Taste soul,

White-Bean and Turkey Skinny Chili

INGREDIENTS:
  • olive oil spray
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
  • 2 4.5 ounce cans diced green chilies
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, to your taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to your taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 15.5 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream
INSTRUCTIONS
  • Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium flame. When hot, spray with oil.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the meat and cook, breaking it up until white and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  • Add diced green chilies, cilantro, salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Puree 1 can of beans in the blender with 1 cup of the broth. Add to the pot with the remaining beans, broth and bay leaves, and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and reduce to a simmer, about 30 to 35 minutes mixing occasionally, until thickened and the flavors meld.
  • Remove the cover and the bay leaves, and simmer another 30 minutes.
  • Stir in yogurt or sour cream and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and salt to taste.
  • To serve, topped with your favorite toppings, such as green onion, avocado, jalapeños, sour cream, chopped red onion, and/or cheddar, Monterey Jack or jalapeño-jack cheese.

White Bean Soup with Garlic, Rosemary, and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Before you begin, pour one of the cans of cannellini beans (with its liquid) into a blender and purée until smooth. Drain the other two cans of beans.
  • Mince the garlic and add it to a soup pot with the olive oil. Sauté the garlic over medium for about one minute, or just until the garlic is very fragrant.
  • Add the puréed cannellini beans, the other two cans of drained beans, broth, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
  • Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low, remove the lid, and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Ten minutes before serving, add the spinach, cover, and bring the soup back to a boil. Boil for five minutes, then remove the pot from the heat.
  • Smash the beans slightly to thicken the soup even more. Taste the soup and add salt if needed. Serve hot, with crusty bread for dipping!

Not Just Another Hot Pepper Sauce.

Hot sauce!

Two words that get MY heart all a-twitter (small “t”).

There a whole lot of us out here for whom hot sauce is a way of life; many of us are always on the scout for the next great sauce. Me too.

Quick anecdote: I was taught most of my culinary skills at the elbow of an amazing Filipino chef named Martin Betonio at my family’s gourmet market on South Beach in Florida. He had previously been the executive chef at the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, and came to us after a dispute with hotel management. Marty was a lifelong aficionado of all things spicy, and rigorous in his mentorship. Marty taught me the principle of repeatable recipes–the ability to reproduce recipes exactly every time, so that flavors never vary.

Marty instilled in me the one single rule for making food spicy: “Any boob can make food spicy,” he always said. “It takes no talent to make food incomparably spicy. All you have to do is be able to pour. What takes talent is making very spicy food tase good.”

It has been one of the driving principles of my entire cooking career, and I DO like my food spicy.

And so, hot sauce.

I was asked my opinion of some of the sauces one finds in the grocery stores and specialty stores these days; it seems that there are more and more every week. I like some of them, I don’t like some, and some make no impression on me at all. But one conclusion I’ve come to is that it has become an arms race to make sauces hotter and hotter, flavor be damned.

Does the sauce make you sweat? Mission accomplished!

To that I say, FOOEY.

So I went about the challenge of making a sauce myself that was both scintillatingly hot AND memorably tasty.

I think I’ve got it.

And so can you. Make it yourself. This recipe has it all, and I promise you’ll remember it.

Jeff’s Kitchen hot sauce: Thalbasco!

Ingredients:

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup diced carrots

½ cup diced onion

3-4 hot red cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded, veins removed

4-8 Tabasco peppers, pickled. (See Note*)

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation:

  1.  Heat a heavy-bottom fry pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil and the carrots, onions, cherry peppers, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the onions and garlic burn. Turn the heat off and allow to cool completely.

  2. When completely cooled, place the carrot mixture in a blender along with the vinegar and Tabasco peppers, and blend on high speed until completely smooth, with no vegetable pieces. 

  3. Slowly drizzle the water into the sauce and continue blending until it is as thin and runny. The sauce should be just barely viscous or completely liquified, as you wish.

  4. Pour the blended sauce, along with the salt and honey, into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a slow simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. While the sauce is simmering, prepare sauce bottles or jars and lids by washing with hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and place in a 215-degree oven. Bring a canning pot filled with water to a slow boil. In the last five minutes the sauce is simmering, place the bottles or jars and lids in the boiling water.

  6. After 30 minutes, ladle the sauce into the bottles, ensuring that there are no bubbles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe the bottle threads to remove any sauce and afix the lids, closing to finger tight. Place the bottles in the boiling water, with at least an inch of water over the lids, cover and process for 20 minutes. The sauce will keep unopened for 1 year, 6 months after opening.

  7. Remove the bottles when finished and set on a towel or cooling rack for 24 hours without moving. If any of the bottles don’t seal ( look for the lids to be indented inward), refrigerate. They will keep refrigerated for 6 months ( but the sauce won’t last that long).

  8. Alternately, if you don’t wish to can the sauce, refrigerate once they have reached room temperature. The refrigerated sauce will keep 6 months.

* I was given pickled Tabasco peppers by a neighbor who grew and pickled them himself. You can buy these peppers from online specialty sites or grow and picks them yourself. Most good garden centers sell the pepper plants in the spring, and pickling them is simple. Directions are on line. Don’t substitute other hot peppers; Tabasco peppers have a very specific flavor. If you can’t find or grow them, substitute original Tabasco sauce at the simmer stage, a teaspoonful at a time and tasting for heat. The sauce won’t be exactly the same, but close, and better than Tabasco Sauce alone. Flavor is everything.

Midweek Shrimp Fried Rice: Fast and Furious

Wednesday afternoon. Been pulling weeds all day…whew!

Got to make dinner for the troops, and a half hour to do it.

What to do?

What’s in the fridge? A container of cooked brown rice. Eggs. Some fresh (zucchini, broccoli, yellow squash, spinach, celery, carrots) and frozen (corn, peas, lima beans, chopped onions…) veggies. In the cellar: onions, garlic, potatoes, sweets.

And in the freezer, a bag of small/medium shrimp, salmon, chicken breasts…

The usual stuff.

But it’s 5:30 and I’ve been doing yard work all day (don’t get too close!)

So…what’s for dinner? This supply list cries out for one perfect thing: Fried Rice. Can do!

Quick and easy–I recommend you keep 2-cup freezer packs of cooked brown rice for emergencies (they freeze well). This is the quickest, easiest, tastiest, and welcome-ist, emergency dinner you can conjure up. Note: we also always have some grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer, just in case. This recipe can be made with chicken, shrimp, or vegetarian, in about 15 minutes, start to finish.

So if you’re in a hurry…

Restaurant-Quality Shrimp Fried Rice

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons peanut or canola oil

2 cups brown rice, cooked and completely chilled (use white rice if you prefer, but it MUST be cooked and completely chilled (not just room temp.) before using. This is why I always have a couple of bags of cooked brown rice in the freezer

1 lb. 26-31-count frozen shrimp

2 eggs

1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch strips (roll cut)

1 cup frozen peas

1 small onion, cut into eighths, then sliced in 1/2-inch slices

2 green onions, medium chop

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

6 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon fine-ground white pepper

Preparation:

1. Defrost the shrimp in a bowl of water, peel and devein, place in a screen strainer over the sink, and toss with kosher salt.

2. Do all the prep: cut the carrots, onions, and green onions, mix the three sauce ingredients, lightly beat the eggs

3. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil and immediately add the carrots, onions, and peas; stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, until just beginning to brown and soften. Do not overlook.

4. Push the vegetables to one side, add a teaspoon oil and the shrimp; stir-fry quickly, for ONE minute.

5. Push the shrimp into the vegetables on the side, add a teaspoon oil and eggs, and scramble for ONE minute.

6. Quickly toss all the ingredients together, add the half the rice, stir-fry to combine, then repeat with the remaining rice and toss to mix everything.

7. Whisk the sauce to combine and add the white pepper and HALF the sauce to the fried rice, stir to completely coat. Taste, and add more sauce if you wish. Stir to combine all the ingredients to coat everything with sauce.

8. Turn off the heat, drizzle with a little more sesame-seed oil, sprinkle the green onions over the dish, and serve immediately.

NOTE: if using raw chicken, cut into small dice and cook until just slightly underdone at the step when the shrimp is added; if using cooked chicken, chop small and add at the same time as the rice. If making it vegetarian, but you want more protein, toss in fresh bean sprouts or top each serving with a sunny-side egg.

The Amazing Blueberry, a Summer Treat!

It’s blueberry season!

Every year about this time (or actually a little bit sooner), we go to the local farmer’s market and buy a flat or two of these bulbous blue beauties. We freeze them in small bags to use the rest of the year.

This year I took a flat for myself and made preserves. Blueberry preserves.

And they are sensational.

With a bit of lemon juice and zest for a fresh jolt of flavor and some acidity sir the canning process, I’ve created a monster of a product. Because I don’t like to add pectin to my products it didn’t tighten up like spreadable jams–it’s just a little bit runny–but now it’s more like a topping. Try it on pancakes. Spread it on a slice of banana bread. . Drop a spoonful or two on a scoop of ice cream (you may never look at vanilla ice cream the same way). Or slather a bit on toast or an English muffin. The blueberry and lemon flavors are so intense that you don’t need much.

Because it’s a little loose I am calling this little jar off goodness “a topping,” not jam or preserves (if you want it to tighten up into a jam add a package of liquid pectin at the half-hour mark). But make no mistake. This is preserved blueberries at their finest.

Try this one yourselves.

Blueberry “Topping” (psssst…it’s preserves)

Ingredients:
  • 10 cups of fresh blueberries
  • 6 cups of granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
Preparation:
  1. This is a canned preserve, so it’s important to make sure your jars and lids are sterilized. If you plan to freeze yours, then you can skip over this first part.
  2. To begin, fill a canning- or large stockpot half full of water [you are going to want the water to be over the tops of your jars by a couple inches, so make sure you have enough water in there for that] and set over a medium burner. Make sure the rack is in the bottom.
  3. Wash the jars and lids with soap and water, then put them into the large pot. Once this comes up to a boil, cover and turn off heat. You are going to turn it back on high for about the last 10 minutes of the preserve cooking time, to sterilize the jars and have the water hot enough to can the final product.
  4. Wash blueberries and pick over, removing any debris and spoiled berries.
  5. Place about half of the berries in a 5 to 8 quart heavy pot. Crush well with a potato masher or a quick whiz with an immersion blender.
  6. Stir in the other half of the berries, the sugar, salt and lemon zest.
  7. Place the pot over medium heat, cover with a lid, and give it a stir every few minutes.
  8. Once the mixture comes up to a simmer or low boil, remove the lid, and continue to stir every 5 minutes, or more often if they start to stick at all.
  9. Place a small plate in the freezer – this will be to test the doneness of the preserves.
  10. Cook about 25 minutes, and test a small amount on the cold plate you put in the freezer. After sitting on the plate for a minute or so, the preserves should look pretty thick, and should not run very freely if you tip the plate. If the mixture is still too thin, keep cooking, and check again about every 5 minutes, returning the plate to the freezer after each check. How long it takes is going to depend largely on the moisture content of the berries you are using. Ideally, use a canning thermometer and boil until the batch reaches 220 degrees F. This batch took about 60 minutes total.
  11. At the 30 minute mark, return your large pot of water and jars to a boil.
  12. When the preserves are thick enough, stir in the lemon juice and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  13. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water in the large pot, and set upright on a towel on your work surface. Keep the heat on under the pot.
  14. Ladle the preserves into the jars – the big funnel in the canning tools set helps keep the edges of the jars clean. Jams don’t need very much headspace above the surface of the jam itself – about ¼ inch between the top of the jam and the rim of the jar is enough room. Any more than that leaves too much chance for bacteria to grow, so fill them right up to that level.
  15. Wipe the edges of the jars clean with a damp cloth, and put on the lids and rings. Don’t screw the rings down super tight – just until they resist a bit is fine. If you have less than enough to fill the final jar, just put that one in the fridge to eat up first.
  16. Carefully place the covered jars back in the large pot of water – there are jar tongs in the set of tools, or use regular tongs to gently set the jars upright on the bottom.
  17. Once the water is back up to a full boil, set the timer for 10 minutes. When the time is up, carefully remove the jars to a wooden cutting board, or a dry towel on the counter – don’t use same towel as before since it might be damp and cooler and could break the hot jars.
  18. Cool completely and check to make sure all of the centers of the lids have popped down. Refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed (the lid of a properly sealed jar will pop inward), and use them first. Allow the jars to cool, and then leave them alone for 24 hours.
  19. Store in a fairly cool spot, and when opening the jars, inspect the contents, discarding any jars with mold or questionable appearance. Preserves will keep very well for up a year, or even longer, though the quality may suffer somewhat after a year.

Easiest Banana Bread Ever

Ok. So…banana bread.

We have a bowl of bananas ripening–read: turning brown and mushy–on the kitchen counter all summer; we just can’t eat them fast enough.

So we’re swimming in inedible bananas. I know, I know…don’t buy so many. On the other hand, the skins are great for my rose garden, and oh, the muffins!

But it has to be simple, no muss, no fuss. That’s where the blender comes in. Wet ingredients? Dump and blend. One function, one thing to wash, easy to pour–perfect!

Dry ingredients: big bowl, add and whisk. Done!

Extras? Chocolate (or butterscotch, or toffee–whatever) chips, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, apricots–a half a cup of anything you like. I even made it once with rum and coconut extracts and dried pineapple pieces: pina-colada banana bread. Just use your imagination and have at it.

Easy Peasy.

BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas (if small use 4)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond or coconut extract
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cup milk (I use almond milk)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, blend together bananas, oil, brown sugar, eggs, and extracts. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Spoon the banana mixture from the blender into the bowl with the dry ingredients and 1/2 cup milk. Mix all together until mixture is well combined.

Spoon batter into a buttered or greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (or 12-cup prepared muffin tin–fill the cups). Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 15 minutes and carefully remove loaf from pan.

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